One Little Spark

Robin Williams

This probably isn’t the first post you’ve read about the passing of Robin Williams, and my guess is it won’t be the last. But it will be the first and last you read here.

I’m not one for celebrity and apart from Princess Diana, I don’t think I’ve ever cried at the passing of a famous person, no matter how much I enjoyed their films/music/art.

Until today.

When I heard about Robin Williams’ death, I spent 20 minutes scrolling through news and social media sites, fixed my kids some morning tea, closed the door to my office and I cried my eyes out.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why for the better part of the day, and I’m still not sure.

I think part of it is my own experience with depression and the fact that I’m in a bit of a down phase. But there’s also just an acute sadness that a brilliant spark has gone out.

I don’t know of anyone my age who grew up without regular viewings of Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire or Hook. (“Ru-fi-ooooooooooo!”) At the heart of these movies, and many others, was a playfulness and the desire to stay in a childlike joy. The underlying message: “Don’t take things too seriously, whatever you do.”

There will be much talk about mental health today, as a result of this great actor’s apparent suicide, and I hope with all my heart that these discussions help tear down the walls of stigma and silence that surround depression and other mental illnesses. God knows they need to come down, too many people are going under.

But maybe we can keep space for that childlike joy too. The mischievous grin, the glee in a well-placed one-liner, the joy of a middle-aged man dressed up as an elderly lady, the unbridled delight in a Neverland food fight.

After all, as Peter Benning put it at the end of Hook:

To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.

When we can, I think we should live that adventure with as much childlike joy as we can.

there you are, peter.

RIP, Robin Williams.

22 Responses to One Little Spark

  1. I cried, too. I hate thinking of how he must have suffered, when he gave us all so much. Hopefully, as you say, it will help lift the silence and maybe that will ease someone else’s agony. Love, love x

    • I was saying to Sparky last night, “It makes me sad to think he might only be remembered for his death and its importance in the mental health discussion.” But honestly, I think his legacy is one of joy too.

  2. Yes I cried too and I am not into celebrity either.This may not be the only post about RW but I suspect it will be the best.

  3. I hadn’t heard; we’re on holiday and TV free for a week. Golly, what sad news. The world is a sadder place today. God bless him and all who loved him.

  4. Thank you for this post and for the one about moving on when someone posts something you disagree with. Unbelievably, someone I know has posted a “oh geeze, enough with going on about mental illness already” type post, which has upset me. I am going to do what I know is for the best and ignore it. You have made a difference – thank you.

    • Ah, Rachel, I wish I could say I can’t believe it, but sadly I can. People can say hurtful things when they come from a place of ignorance. So glad to hear you chose to let it not get to you though. And thank you for your kind words too. They’ve made a difference. xx

  5. Thank you. Sharing our struggles with depression takes a lot of guts, and your contribution here to the larger discussion of Williams’ life and reducing the stigma of depression is an excellent use of your gift.

    • Thank you, Sarah. I believe it’s something we have to talk about, openly and without judgement. Too many people are suffering, and it’s horrible to think that our silence is making it worse.

  6. Beautiful article, Brooke! And I totally empathize! I felt the same way when I heard–caught wondering how such a brilliant soul could have ended his own life. We need more people willing to step up and talk about the pain of sadness, depression, and mental illness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts :)

    • Thanks Darcey! Honestly, I was shocked by how sad I was/am. I tihnk it’s something in his human-ness that cut through all the BS and made us all feel something true. I don’t want that to be forgotten in amongst the really important discussions that will surely follow.

  7. Brooke,
    Thank you for this post. I could not have said it better myself. I first heard the news from my husband yesterday when he got home and was shocked and amazed that he had died and had no idea what he died from. At the time my husband did not know the cause. Most of us have been depressed at one time or another my first bout was the death of my best friend at nine years old. Her and others sparks have passed prematurely.

    He was a great man who knew how to make others laugh and for that gift he will be sorely missed.

  8. I slept so badly last night thinking about him … the weight of it all on his heart … breaks my own
    Beautiful words, as ever x